Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Important Court Decision on Public Records

I want to sincerely thank Tom Aswell of The Louisiana Voice and our attorney J. Arthur Smith III for blazing the way to the proper enforcement of the Louisiana Public Records law. Tom Aswell, represented by Attorney J Arthur Smith III won an important court decision over a year ago requiring John White and the Department of Education to produce public information requested by Aswell based on the public records law. Yesterday, J. Arthur Smith and Adrienne Rachel acting as my attorneys achieved another important compromise settlement and consent judgment against Superintendent John White and the LDOE to further enforce the public records law on my behalf. The settlement of the case Michael R. Deshotels Verses John White in his official capacity over DOE was agreed to before District Judge Hernandez. According to the agreement, not only is the DOE required to produce the public records I requested over six months ago, but the DOE is required to pay all court costs, attorney fees and additional penalties for not producing such records at the time they were requested. I hope this settlement means that no other citizen will be forced to file a lawsuit to view or obtain public records from the Department of Education.

All that Tom Aswell and I were seeking is information that allows us to conduct independent investigations of some of the data and information that is generated by the DOE in conducting our public business. In particular, I wanted to examine data on the new teacher evaluation system and get a better idea how some teachers get rated ineffective and some teachers get exempted when their VAM ratings are considered invalid for various reasons. I also wanted to conduct independent studies on the graduation rates in the two Louisiana Recovery Districts. The problem is that much of the statistical information that in the past was available to the public and to independent researchers is no longer being made available by John White. Many independent researchers have reason to believe that important data is being manipulated for political rather than proper educational purposes.

But even with the LDOE's high priced attorneys and public relations gatekeepers who vigilantly attempt to withhold public information from the public, the Louisiana Courts have not been willing to allow John White and his department to avoid public scrutiny into the workings of our Department of Education. Because of our courts which are not controlled by Jindal and White, the Department of Education is not yet an independent fiefdom within which John White can totally control public education and reorganize it to meet his personal ideological and political goals without public scrutiny.

An Important Case Study
Many of us who are interested in the welfare of public education and of the education profession are appalled at some of the disturbing consequences of the Jindal and White "deforms" of public education. A perfect example of such deform policies is the chaos now being caused in the East Baton Rouge Parish School system. If you are interested in the future of public education, you owe it to yourself to read this post in The Crazy Crawfish blog.

The EBR public school system is under siege by the LDOE because of their attempts to take over much of the school system. As a result, I believe local administrators have resorted to an unwritten policy of forcing educators to promote and attempt to graduate any and all students regardless of actual achievement. This is leading to appalling negative consequences for students and teachers.

According to the excellent investigative report by Jason France of the Crazy Crawfish blog, teachers in some schools are being bullied into ignoring serious classroom discipline problems, and into promoting some non-performing students to make their schools look good on paper. Teachers are often being required to tolerate disrespectful, aggressive and even dangerous behavior by some of the most disruptive students because the central office wants all students to pass no matter what. These schools instead are deteriorating on the inside because of destruction of discipline and respect for the authority and academic freedom of teachers. In some schools, teachers know that their job depends not so much on their success in teaching but on simply finding a way to promote almost all students. The new evaluation and teacher dismissal policies rammed through the legislature by Jindal make it extremely easy to fire teachers who do not produce the results demanded by upper management. The morale of teachers is systematically being destroyed in some schools, and many of the best teachers are looking for a way to retire or resign early.

There is plenty of blame to pass around for this appalling situation in EBR and in some other parishes, but it all starts with the perverse policies of our Department of Education. Efforts to shame and blame schools and educators for the problems in many of our impoverished communities are totally counterproductive and destructive of our public schools. We don't blame doctors for the high death rate of heart patients but we do blame teachers for the underperformance of our many at risk students!

Five years ago in EBR a group of so called "failing schools" were taken over by the state and converted into independently managed charter schools. Now the results of those actions are just part of the carefully guarded public records. Almost all of the takeover schools are even greater failures according to the statistics generated by the DOE, and the only school that seemed to be slightly improving is under investigation by the FBI. How has the DOE reacted to this total failure of their so called “Recovery” effort? They have pretended that the last 5 years never happened and have announced the creation of an “achievement zone” in EBR run mostly by the state and new charter operators with the intent of privatizing even more public schools. That is why the local school system has reacted with the demoralizing policies that attempt to shield local schools from state takeover. It is not about education anymore. It is purely about a power struggle between the state and the local school system with the victims being the students and the teachers.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Report on Legislature #2

This is my second report on education legislation. I have tried to group the important education bills into several categories. This does not include teacher retirement bills. These bills will be described by the Retired Teachers' Association. Future posts will include more detail on important education bills:

Student Information Privacy and Parent's Rights

HB 555 by Henry, HB 560 by Ivey, HB 946 by Schroeder, HB 384 by Cromer, and SB 455 by G. Smith prohibits certain student data collection and sharing

SB 308 by Crowe and HB 591 by Henry provides for privacy rights of parents

SB 449 by Appel provides for privacy of student data

SB 536 by LaFleur provides of K-12 privacy

HB 591 by Henry provides for parental rights

HB 735 by James allows for parent petitions to remove schools from the Recovery District

HB 817 by Nancy Landry allows parent petitions for changing school and district management

School Standards and Standardized Testing

HB 359 by Harrison and HB 423 by Pat Smith temporarily suspends school letter grades

HB 481 by Shadoin provides for DOE to supply curriculum guides for schools

HB 554 by Henry provides for legislative approval of content standards and allows local standards

HB 556 by Henry prohibits the Common Core State Standards, 557, 558, 559, 376, 377, and 379 are related to the same issues and were discussed in legislative report # 1.

HB 559 by Ivey provides for Louisiana based school standards in the place of CCSS

HB 809 by Cox provides credit for lower ACT scores for accountability

HB 845 by Reynolds requires curriculum guides for required subjects

HB 953 by Leger provides for state standards as opposed to national standards

HB 988 by Schroder provides for local control of standards

HB 163 by Burns and HB 996 by Schroder prohibits PARCC testing

HB 1015 by Schroder provides for promotion of students with disabilities based on IEP and prohibits the use of standardized scores of such students for school accountability

SB 171 by Appel provides for definition of competency based education to align with Common Core

SB 405 by Walsworth provides that all state accountability tests must be reviewed by stakeholders

Teacher Evaluation, certification standards, and Tenure

HB 101 by Edwards requires same employment standards for teachers in charters as in regular schools

HB 124 by Pat Smith gives first preference to hiring certified teachers in charters.

HB 306 by Hoffman prohibits the freezing teacher salary because of one ineffective VAM score

HB 415 by Hoffman requires reworking of teacher evaluation by the Eval. Advisory Committee

HB 453 by Hunter provides for tenure process for teachers in the Monroe City system

HB 533 by Seabaugh prevents the use of students with excessive absences for VAM

HB 653 by Landry restores the Jindal revision of tenure declared unconstitutional in Act 1

HB 890 by Johnson revises the evaluation of teachers and administrators to require reliable measures

HB 375 by Guymann lowers percentage of teacher evaluation based on VAM to 25%

HB 947 by Havard lowers the percentage of teachers evaluation based on VAM

HB 949 by Schroeder revises the evaluation of teachers and administrators changing percentage weight of VAM and SLTs for different grade levels

HB 982 by Gaines provides due process for teacher removal

SB 364 by Nevers delets VAM and substitutes multiple measures for teacher evaluation

HB 995 by A Williams revises evaluation of teachers

School Board and local Superintendent powers

HB 191 by Pearson and HB 651 by Landry provides for powers and duties of School Boards and Superintendents, restores provisions of Act 1 of 2012

HB 1022 by Landry provides for powers of School Boards and Superintendents and prevents school boards from interfering with Superintendent in personnel matters and prevents firing Superintendents for such actions.

Vouchers, Charters and Course Choice

HB 702 by Edwards limits vouchers for kindergarten students to low performing zones

HB 268 by Reynolds provides accountability for voucher schools

HB 269 provides for tracking of tuition for voucher schools

HB 424 by Thierry provides for auditing of non-profits that receive voucher funding

HB 701 by Edwards provides for eligibility for vouchers

HB 774 by Shadoin and SB 179 by Morrish changes provisions for course choice program

HB 780 by Talbot provides for tax rebates for student tuition

HB 836 by Harrison provides for accountability for voucher schools

SB 61 by Nevers provides for public school choice allowing transfers of students in public schools

SB 78 by Kostelka provides for financial disclosure of members of charter school boards

SB 460 by Adley provides for auditing of voucher schools

HB 184 by Havard provides for charter school assets

HB 999 by A. Williams limits charter management fees

HB 522 by James provides for property return by Recovery District

SB 219 by Murray provides for return of property from Recovery District

SB 437 by Morrell provides for performance reviews for takeover schools after 5 years

Other Important Education Bills

HB 125,127 by Harrison provides for an elected State Superintendent

HB 777 by Pat Smith modifies discipline laws for students

HB 944 by Fannin modifies the career diploma law

HB 948 by A Williams provides for certain schools in RSD to be returned to local school boards

SB 83 by Nevers provides for a single high school diploma with multiple endorsements

SB 191 by Morrish provides for equal weighting of IB, AP, and dual enrollment courses for accountability

SB 354 by White provides for a constitutional amendment defining authority of public school districts established by the legislature